Peñasco boys basketball has a new head coach for the 2020-21 season. Javier Roper, a former Northern New Mexico basketball player, was hired by Lisa Hamilton, …
Peñasco boys basketball has a new head coach for the 2020-21 season.
Javier Roper, a former Northern New Mexico basketball player, was hired by Lisa Hamilton, Peñasco's superintendent, this month to lead the boys program, which went just 10-17 a season ago.
Roper replaces Brandon Gurule, who led the Panthers for three seasons. Gurule, who was also athletic coordinator up until this past academic school year, failed to have a winning season in his three years as head coach.
Gurule was dismissed from his position as basketball coach by Hamilton, the superintendent confirmed, but was allowed to stay on as athletic coordinator, though he chose to leave that position at the end of the academic school year, Hamilton said.
Hamilton said that typically the athletic coordinator handles concession duties also, but that for the next school year, there will be separate jobs for the two positions. Because of that, the pay was downgraded for the athletic coordinator position to make room for a concession coordinator -- a move that falls in line with most other districts, Hamilton said.
Before Roper, however, another coach was initially offered the head coaching position at Peñasco.
Hamilton confirmed that Bobby Romero -- who recently accepted a job as head coach at Academy for Technology and the Classics as its new basketball coach -- was the first choice on the list.
But when asked why Romero didn't accept in the end, Hamilton said to look "on his Facebook," referring to a post Romero made on his personal page about why he didn't take the job as the boys basketball coach at Peñasco.
Rumors circulated around the Peñasco athletic department that Romero had turned down the offer as coach because he wasn't allowed to choose his assistant coaching staff.
However, Romero denied any "rumors" on a Facebook post on June 15, and said the decision to not coach at Peñasco came down to wanting to be closer to family -- and wanting to see his daughter play basketball next year, as an "incoming freshman," he wrote.
Romero was unable to be reached for comment by press time Tuesday (June 23).
Before his new tenure with ATC, Romero was head coach of the Mesa Vista girls basketball team the past two seasons, both of which were losing seasons. Last season, the Mesa Vista girls went 12-15 and finished fourth in District 5-2A behind Questa.
While things didn't work out for Romero, Roper was able to fill the void as head coach for the Peñasco boys and was hired shortly thereafter.
Roper, 24, has no head coaching experience and most recently played basketball for the Northern New Mexico College Eagles. He had some assistant coaching experience back in Louisiana -- his home state.
A 6-6 forward, Roper received a suspension in December 2019 -- his senior season -- for a skirmish he and other teammates got into with players from Kansas-based Haskell Indian Nations University, according to a report from the Santa Fe New Mexican.
Eleven players in total were suspended, including Roper, according to the New Mexican. Three from Northern New Mexico didn't play the remainder of the season, Roper among them.
Hamilton said that she spoke to officials from Northern New Mexico, who instead said that Roper didn't play due to injury and not because he was suspended indefinitely.
Roper played high school basketball in Louisiana at New Living Word and won two state titles his junior and senior year in 2014 and 2015. He then signed with Grambling State before ending up at Northern New Mexico.
Peñasco's last championship in boys basketball came in 1981 under George Marquez in a Class 2A showdown with Thoreau. That season, Peñasco went 27-1 under Marquez, who was just three to four years older than the seniors on that team.
Hamilton cited that as one of the reasons she's excited to see what Roper brings to the court.
Roper has faith that he can replicate that success, too.
"She believes in me a lot and she told me that," Roper said. "I believe I can get it done. The boys have a lot of talent and they should have won more games over the last two years. I'm excited."
Roper will be making $4,380 this upcoming season as the head boys basketball coach, Hamilton said.
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